What a year 2022 has been! We thought 2020 and 2021 were overwhelmingly stressful with what seemed to be a never-ending pandemic full of rules, regulations, cancelations, and changes depending on the latest illness statistics. Each time when we thought we were out of the woods and saw light at the end of the tunnel for pandemic wind down, we were hit with another strain of the virus.
Fast forward to this year. We were planning (or hoping) to attain more normalcy after two years of upheaval, while closing out a quiet hurricane season (since it was late in the season), and then, BOOM! Our area was widely affected by Hurricane Ian. In preparation, we quickly activated and opened as a special needs shelter having to postpone our anniversary Gala once again, with the first cancellation last year due to an outbreak of COVID.
Nonetheless, in normal stride the Osceola County community came together, helping one another, supporting the OCOA, day after day, and week after week after the extensive Ian devastation. As we consistently give accolades to our OCOA community partners, there is one organization partner who deserves special credit and recognition for their philanthropic support: The Walt Disney Company.
“When we heard the Osceola Council on Aging canceled their annual fundraiser due to Hurricane Ian, we wanted to help. In addition to sharing critical resources with their organization, we were happy to cover their fundraising goal, knowing the positive impact their programs and services make for seniors in our community,” said Walt Disney World Resort Director of External Affairs Tajiana Ancora-Brown.
The truth is, Walt Disney World Resort has been a long-time supporter of the OCOA in our mission to provide services enabling independence for our seniors, adults with disabilities and families across the community.
The OCOA was initially recognized by Disney in 1979 with a Community Service Award, known today as Disney Grants. Subsequently, we have received hundreds of thousands of dollars of financial contributions, in-kind donations, and Disney VoluntEARS support; a program connecting cast members with local leaders and nonprofit organizations to help support important causes.
While Disney cast members worked to prepare the theme parks and other areas across the resort ahead of Ian, the teams delivered items to local organizations, including 1,000 water bottles for the OCOA. Following the storm, hundreds of blankets, hygiene products and snacks for displaced residents were donated. Disney was also instrumental in consistent support while our special needs shelter was open.
In addition to the Disney VoluntEARS hands-on helping before and after the storm, The Walt Disney Company contributed millions of dollars in monetary funds for relief efforts, including aiding cast members (employees) affected by the hurricane. Support funds were also granted directly to organizations helping those who needed assistance in the wake of the storm, including the OCOA.
“We continue thinking of our extended Disney family and communities across Florida rebuilding in the aftermath of Hurricanes Ian and Nicole. We remain committed to supporting them as we move forward, together,” said Stefanie Steele, Corporate Social Responsibility Senior Manager.
We thank Disney from the bottom of our hearts for the years of support they have given the Council on Aging! Just as with our many community partners, we could not do our jobs without you.
Finally, as we all know, challenges create opportunities, and over the past three years we certainly have had our share of challenges. I feel as an organization, and as a community, we are even stronger for them. We have learned how important it is to anticipate challenges and to plan, to react quickly and with compassion.
Most importantly, we have learned the value of community and mutual support, which allows us to come together in times of need. I feel fortunate to live and work in such an environment, and community.
Thank you, and Happy Holidays!